In an age of constant energy and discussion and stimulation, sometimes it can be hard to remember to step back and breathe for a minute. Shippensburg’s Mindfulness Series, led by Dr. Toru Sato (who prefers to just be called “Toru”), gives SU students, staff and community that opportunity in bi-weekly sessions.
Each session has a different theme, ranging from breath counting to self-compassion. This week’s theme was “body scan,” with the focus of bringing attention to different parts of the body to relieve tension while practicing deep breathing techniques.
While we’re all rushing through our daily classes, jobs and other obligations, we often do not notice how constantly tense and busy our minds are until we are in this moment of quiet, left with nothing but the sound of our own breathing.
The session began with seven or eight minutes of deep breathing. While it was hard to pay attention and fully devote myself to the experience, I’ll have to admit that once I did, I could sense the tension slowly starting to ease out of my shoulders. As it would turn out, we are a lot tenser than we realize.
After the initial breathing session, Sato invited everyone who was comfortable to share how they were feeling. Many of the participants were grateful for the chance to step out of the moment to enjoy something pleasant, to give themselves a break from all the sorrow in the world today. Sato said that often the mind does not live in the body, instead it always seems to be someplace else, worrying about tomorrow. Which is why, he said, we were going to bring the mind back through this body scan exercise.
Among the participants I could see through Zoom, there was a clear sense of relief after the hour-long session was over. People of all ages found success through this mindfulness session, with some being so relaxed that they almost fell asleep (a common experience in mindfulness sessions). Sato reassured everyone that they should be proud that they put this time aside for themselves, even if they could not stay focused the entire session.
“Honor your intention and your effort, regardless of your success in staying focused,” he said.
So, why should you consider attending a mindfulness session? For starters, some find it easier to be guided through a mindfulness exercise than to try and do it on their own. It also gives you more accountability and less temptation to get distracted to take a peek at your phone when you know you are supposed to be participating in something.
Also, holding these sessions over Zoom might ease any feelings of vulnerability that might arise if attending in-person. You can get comfortable in your own chair or bed instead of worrying about your surroundings. And the last, most important reason, is that mindfulness exercises genuinely are good for you. Give yourself a few minutes of undivided time to just breathe, you deserve as much.
The next mindfulness session will be held on Oct. 8 at 3:30. Those interested in attending should email Sato for a Zoom link and further information.